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  1. #1
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    tougher climb than Fiddlers Elbow in NJ?

    I tried a new candidate for toughest climb on asphalt in the state of New Jersey:
    Breakneck -- way up north near Vernon [ see map ]

    Thanks to David G for suggesting it to me.
    Felt at least as tough as the notorious Fiddlers Elbow climb (way out west between Belvidere + Washington - see map). But that was on a hot day in full sun, and my first time trying it, so might not feel quite so hard a second or third time on a cooler cloudier day. (Fiddlers also feels pretty overwhelming to most people their first time). Somebody who's done both several times could give a better opinion.
    Also very helpful is if somebody has some accurate elevation : distance measurements for Breakneck they could post here or send my by Private Message. By "accurate" I'm thinking like using a (expensive) GPS with a barometric altimeter, or a non-GPS bicycle cyclometer with altimeter (not from topo software, and not from a GPS lacking a barometric altimeter, because GPS units generally do not measure altitude really accurately).
    I like Fiddlers Elbow better than Breakneck, because I did not like the sharp curve in the midst of the steepest section on Breakneck Rd, and seemed like lots more car traffic than Fiddlers -- so more car drivers that might not see me as they come around that corner.The climbing felt so hard right then, I was thinking about what if I fell off my bike there and a car came around the corner while I was lying on the pavement still trying to get up.Also I like it that Fiddlers has much more shade. But one way they're the same is that their asphalt has coarser stones than most New Jersey roads, so the climbing requires more effort than you'd estimate from knowing the steepness grade. For now I've put them on the steep climbs of NJ list in a tie for 1st.

    details: I got the maximum amount of climbing by starting below Breakneck Rd, first on Vernon Crossing (rt 644), then rt 515, which joins rt 94 for a short ways, then continue on rt 515 south (becomes Stockholm Rd), then in the midst of a steep-ish climbing section, I made a left turn (across traffic) onto Breakneck Rd going east -- which starts moderate, feels like a relief from rt 515. Then it gets real steep, then a little less steep, then really really steep. Warning sign at the top says 25% grade. (though I kinda doubt it's 25% for more than a short section) -- I'd easily believe there's a sustained section at least 20% grade, and lower down a section at least 16% grade.

    Feeling lucky to have made it to the top, I didn't want to go back down a road that steep, so instead I rode south along the Wawayanda ridge on rt 638, then turned right onto rt 515 north back down to Vernon (rt 515 had a warning sign for 17% grade) -- to me it felt like the sustained steepness on 515 was more like 13%, which was plenty thrilling enough to go down.

    There are some other interesting climbs around Vernon, connected by some pleasant, pretty roads [see report], I did about five of them as warmups for Breakneck, one afterward (which hurt).

    Ken

  2. #2
    Ron&Fez XM202/Sirius197
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    Hello
    Do you do the Bucks county covered bridge ride in PA? Have done that, just wondering how that compaires to the hills you describe. Also have you ever riden up the manyunk wall in philly. If so, how does that compair to fiddlers elbow. I'm a little overweight, but strong. Tend to enjoy short steep out of the saddle stuff. But on extremely long climbs where ya sit and spin, my extra poundage beats me up.
    Bryan

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bry03cobra
    Do you do the Bucks county covered bridge ride in PA? Have done that, just wondering how that compaires to the hills you describe.
    I have no clue what the route is or what hills it goes up. Organized events for general riders that hope to have more than 0.01% of participants ever do them again stay away from hills like Fiddlers or Breakneck. Even the "Hillier Than Thou" event that advertises its hilliness makes clear which of its courses includes Fiddlers, so that only riders who want try it will choose it.

    If an event does not advertise its hilliness, then it doesn't have anything remotely like Fiddlers or Breakneck.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bry03cobra
    Manayunk wall in Philadelphia.
    If you mean Leverington St . . .
    it's just not in the same league with Breakneck or Fiddlers. Near as I can tell Leverington street has less than 100 vertical ft at 10% steepness grade. Some people throw around "17% grade" for Manayunk, but they must mean for less than half a block somewhere along the way, or maybe it's for a 10-feet long hump somewhere on it. (Race course organizers and mainstream media commentators love to over-hype the steepness of roads.)

    Compare against Fiddlers Elbow with over 500 vertical feet at more than 12% grade, including more than 100 vertical feet at 20% steepness grade. (the Manayunk "Wall" has less sustained steepness than Roxburg Hill, which is just the little warmup below the start of Fiddlers Elbows Rd.)

    Compare against Breakneck, which goes on for 430 vertical feet averaging over 14% grade, which is ridiculously steep. The entire Leverington St hill in Manayunk is less than 300 feet, including all the gentler sections.

    Eastern PA does have some serious paved-road hills that at least get into the same league with the steep hills of NJ, but not on the streets of Philadelphia. (? though maybe some dirt/gravel paths around Wissahickon creek ?)

    Ken

  4. #4
    Ron&Fez XM202/Sirius197
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    Ken,
    Sounds like you mountain biked at wissihiccon.....There a a huge climb on the covered bridge ride. It right across the delaware from frenchtown. Long but grade not too much. If you look up the ride, maybe you will be able to see if some of the climbs are compairable. I'm thinking of doing the hillier ride, want to get an idea if how it compaires to the PA climbs. Funny story about the climb I mentioned above. Its probably 2-3 miles long, during the 06 ride I was climbing with a friend, Geoff. He is much lighter than me, good climber. He is pacing me, probably spinning at around 12 mph, I was really working hard. On our wheel we heard 2 younger females chatting.....general girl stuff. I was thinking "can't let 2 chicks pass me". Well that thought lasted a min longer. Looked over to Geoff, "I gotta back off". The 2 girls then pass......... in full Advil/chapstick team kits. Turns out they were a couple local female pros.....I didn't feel so bad.
    Bryan

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bry03cobra
    Hello
    Do you do the Bucks county covered bridge ride in PA? Have done that, just wondering how that compaires to the hills you describe. Also have you ever riden up the manyunk wall in philly. If so, how does that compair to fiddlers elbow. I'm a little overweight, but strong. Tend to enjoy short steep out of the saddle stuff. But on extremely long climbs where ya sit and spin, my extra poundage beats me up.
    Bryan
    Sorry, but these hills are nothing compared to Fiddlers, Breakneck (only been down but get the idea), or many other hills in the region. The bridge ride has one fairly steep hill but it's really not that bad. Many decent club riders **walk** up Fiddlers.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldsbar
    Many decent club riders **walk** up Fiddlers.
    Yes I remember the first time I encountered Fiddlers was on a club ride that was advertised as hilly -- 13 athletic riders that I was proud to more or less keep up with. Only one made it to the top of Fiddlers still pedaling.

    Another time I was jogging up Fiddlers ... two riders slowly passing me. I said, "Save your strength, it's real steep." One replied, "We climbed Mt Mitchell. It's ten times bigger than this." A couple of minutes later I passed them, walking with their bikes.

    Quote Originally Posted by goldsbar
    Sorry, but these hills are nothing compared to Fiddlers, Breakneck (only been down but get the idea), or many other hills in the region. The bridge ride has one fairly steep hill but it's really not that bad.
    Funny thing is that one of the steeper hills I know of in Bucks county PA is right next to a covered bridge: Uhlerstown Hill Rd - just across the river from New Jersey [map]. But if they included that one in any normal public riding event, there would be injuries. The problem I see with Uhlerstown is that you come around the corner and you're in the steep -- there's no time to decide about it. Then you either make it pedaling to the top -- or successfully get out of your pedals in the midst of the steepest hill you've ever seen -- or fall over.

    Ken
    Last edited by Ken Roberts; 07-22-2008 at 06:16 PM.

  7. #7
    Ron&Fez XM202/Sirius197
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    I looked up the ride, looks like thats one of the bridges the ride goes through. here is a link to the ride elevation chart.

    http://www.cbbikeclub.org/?body=covered_bridge_profiles

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Roberts
    Funny thing is that one of the steeper hills I know of in Bucks county PA is right next to a covered bridge: Uhlerstown Hill Rd - just across the river from New Jersey. But if they included that one in any normal public riding event, there would be injuries. The problem I see with Uhlerstown is that you come around the corner and you're in the steep -- there's no time to decide about it. Then you either make it pedaling to the top -- or successfully get out of your pedals in the midst of the steepest hill you've ever seen -- or fall over.
    The Covered Bridge Ride is pretty easy, depending on how fast you do it.

    Uhlerstown is not on that ride. As Ken notes, it would be littered with bodies if it was.

  9. #9
    merckxman
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    Great List

    [QUOTE=Ken Roberts]IFor now I've put them on the steep climbs of NJ list in a tie for 1st.

    I can go up Adamic and Middle Valley but have been struggling up, and defeated, by Iron Bridge Road just the other day. When things get steep I tend to sit more than stand and you really need to stand on Iron Bridge, well at least I did as when I was seated my front wheel came off a couple of times.

  10. #10
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    Ken
    just read your climbing research, and find it outstanding. I can't imagine a more thorough and informative result of cycling in any area. compliments.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by merckxman
    When things get steep I tend to sit more than stand and you really need to stand on Iron Bridge, well at least I did as when I was seated my front wheel came off a couple of times.
    Yes I tried climbing Iron Bridge again and I noticed my front wheel coming up off the ground a couple of times too.

    When things get steep I tend to stand -- but in this case I thought I'd try sitting the whole way, and I made it OK. (I've been forcing myself to sit more because I have this dream of climbing Monte Zoncolan or Passo Mortirolo, and those notorious steep climbs are so long that I'm thinking I can't rely on standing much, or my legs would burn out).

    Then I tried pedaling seated up Ludlow Station (right next to Iron Bridge and I think a little steeper), and leaning my shoulders more forward seemed to keep the front wheel on the ground.

    Fiddlers -- Then I felt bold, went over to Fiddlers Elbow and made it all the way up that sitting -- which I never imagined I could do. But definitely my front wheel was coming off the ground a little several times in the steepest section, and leaning my shoulders forward didn't really stop it.

    I think the front wheel comes up off the ground in very steep climbs because of the acceleration needed to regain speed after the "dead spot" in the pedaling stroke cycle. Maybe some up-down move with the upper body -- timed just right -- might help keep the front wheel down?

    Ken

  12. #12
    Matnlely Dregaend
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    Toughest climb I've ridden is on Millbrook-Flatbrook road from Millbrook going towards Blairstown. I don't think it's the one the list because it's over 600 feet of vertical climb, and it's brutally steep. What's worse is that if you get onto the climb via Flatbrookville, you need to go up another massive 500 foot climb before it.


    NM I see it's listed as #3... but I will point out that pretty much the entire climb is relentless, there is NO flat section.
    Last edited by DrSmile; 08-02-2008 at 04:36 PM.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrSmile
    Toughest climb I've ridden is on Millbrook-Flatbrook road from Millbrook going towards Blairstown. I don't think it's the one the list because it's over 600 feet of vertical climb, and it's brutally steep. What's worse is that if you get onto the climb via Flatbrookville, you need to go up another massive 500 foot climb before it.
    Yes that climb looks like yet another tough one I never heard of before -- in a part of the state I don't get to very often -- so thanks a lot for suggesting it. I put it on my list of steep NJ climbs at #7.
    I tried steepness calculations from three different data sources and got sorta different answers -- I might move it higher on the list after I actually get to try it myself -- which might not be soon.
    I'm getting it as having a total climb of 635 vertical feet, including a section with 450 vertical feet at 13.5% or more -- pretty impressive.

    I also added to the list two other climbs which had sections steeper than 10% grade from sorta that same road around Flatbrookville and Millbrook village.

    Ken

  14. #14
    Matnlely Dregaend
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    I think it's accurate to describe that hill as the longest steep climb in the state. FYI I went to Boulder this spring and rode up two 4500 ft vertical climbs to over 9500 feet and I swear the Millbrook climbs are harder when combined.
    “Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” - Susan B. Anthony 1896
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  15. #15
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    Dr Smiley & Ken
    you know I drive up and down these hills near Millbrook all the time and have always wondered how they stack up for biking...not that I'm anywhere near being able to myself. Thanks for the good info

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrSmile
    I think it's accurate to describe that hill as the longest steep climb in the state.
    I think Rt 602 south from Millbrook village toward Blairstown is tied with Breakneck as having the longest section at 12% average grade -- around 590 vertical feet.
    (But there's other ways to define "longest steep climb", and 602 Millbrook Rd isn't really in contention for any of the other similar definitions, e.g. 7% 10% 14% 16%)
    I got to try it recently [map], and what struck me most was the quiet, remote atmosphere of the area around the climb -- by Walpack Center and Millbrook village. It's not so easy to get there, and I think a key reason for going there would be to do more riding in that atmosphere, not just a couple of steep climbs.

    The climb itself seemed very sustained, pretty evenly graded -- on rather smooth asphalt. Great training hill, if it were somewhere near where I usually ride. The other two climbs nearby between Millbrook village and the Flat Brook along rt 615 were nice warmups (though the surface on the west side was somewhat eroded).

    The gentler roads along the valleys around there had mostly good asphalt -- so maybe could put the sequence two climbs going southeast and south from the Flat Brook rt 615 into a longer loop. But I don't know the roads well enough to say what a good loop would be. Lots of the roads around there not along the valleys are rough dirt.
    And be sure to bring a good map and somebody with good navigational skills -- the signs out there along the roads did not match the names on any maps I've got -- so I got around by the "shape" of the roads and intersections.
    Quote Originally Posted by DrSmile
    I went to Boulder this spring and rode up two 4500 ft vertical climbs to over 9500 feet and I swear the Millbrook climbs are harder when combined.
    That's a good point, that lots of places with a big reputation for climbs are not as tough as New Jersey. Like that New York Times guy a couple of months ago writing about training for "The Climb": whether he could "succeed" on Tourmalet (a long climb over in southern France, but not as steep as Millbrook 602 south). Seemed like he had no clue how tough are some of the climbs and groups of climbs close by him in New Jersey.

    Now that you've tested yourself in Colorado, maybe it's time to test yourself in New Jersey: Breakneck is both longer than Millbrook and steeper than Millbrook. Fiddlers Elbow might or might not be longer (depends on how you measure), but it is tougher.

    Ken
    Last edited by Ken Roberts; 08-06-2008 at 10:45 AM.

  17. #17
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    more to Breakneck than I thought. I found another climbing section at the top, which adds another 100 vertical feet to its total rise.
    Then I found a very different (very steep) climb right next to it: Hidden Valley.

    After some warmups, I took another shot at Breakneck (up north in Vernon valley) [map]. As I hoped, it didn't seem as overwhelming as my first time a few weeks ago. Not as hot either. To my great surprise, I made it all the way to the top pedaling without any standing.
    (It's not that I'm a fast rider or any sort of racer -- I've just gotten very strong at keeping the pedals turning at a slow cadence like 40 rpm.)
    Then at the top I tried turning Right on Tahama Rd, soon another Right on Abricada Rd, and more steep climbing (on somewhat eroded pavement) -- finally I stopped at a dirt road intersection with Accomac Rd. Then I explored some more pleasant roads and pretty lakes up on the Highland Lakes plateau. And I climbed Breakneck again, this time as a personal time trial, and I did lots of standing for that.

    I thought I was done, then I got the idea of checking out the Hidden Valley ski resort, which is partway up on Breakneck Rd. And I found roads that goes way around the west and south side of the ski trails -- first Curtis Dr almost to its end, then left on Hidden Valley Dr. Interesting variety of scenes and climbs -- including four very steep sections (like 15% or more). The start of the first one is plenty intimidating (less than a quarter mile off Breakneck Rd if you just want to look).

    Hidden Valley goes higher than Breakneck, and if you start on different roads way down on the floor of the valley, from north of Vernon at the low point on Vernon Cross rd (rt 644), it's about 1050 vertical feet of climbing to the top -- which I believe makes ...

    Hidden Valley the longest climb in New Jersey which has an average steepness grade over 7%.

    Ken

  18. #18
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    I rode Millbrook on Saturday, leaving from Belvedere. I thought it was a very pleasant climb - smooth road, very scenic. But the terrific place to ride is the downhill on Old Mine Rd./Rt. 606, along the Delaware to the Gap. I touched just under 55 mph, and I was riding the brakes! We saw a mother bear and two cubs on the hill to the left at one point. Great, great mostly downhill ride through the forest.

    And if you want a climb, I've got one for you. Godfrey Ridge Rd. across the river in PA. A little over 2 mi. and 10000 ft. of climbing. LONG sections over 10%, but nothing super steep. The Sixer's basketball camp is on the right, going up hill. We got there via Cherry Valley Rd.
    Last edited by Terex; 08-10-2008 at 05:46 PM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terex
    I rode Millbrook on Saturday, leaving from Belvedere. I thought it was a very pleasant climb - smooth road, very scenic. But the terrific place to ride is the downhill on Old Mine Rd./Rt. 606, along the Delaware to the Gap. I touched just under 55 mph, and I was riding the brakes! We saw a mother bear and two cubs on the hill to the left at one point. Great, great mostly downhill ride through the forest.
    Yes seemed like a pleasant area with lots of miles thru quiet forest.

    55 mph . . . reminds that there's lots of deer who live in that forest - (as in many places where the steep climbs are in New Jersey). I've noticed that deer can leap from hidden in the trees out into the middle of the road with no apparent cause or advance notice. Any guesses about what a car looks like like after it hits a deer at 40 mph?

    I started riding differently down hills in the woods after watching an SUV hit a deer while I was on my bike in west NJ a few weeks ago. This collision was not in the woods, so the SUV could see the deer coming and had time to hit the brakes. The vehicle was still drivable, but I could see pieces of it on the road as I rode through.

    Ken

  20. #20
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Hitting a deer at any speed would not be fun. My buddy hit one at 40 mph. Didn't do too much damage to his Moots, and he was up and riding soon, although a little sore. He understands that he was extremely lucky.

    I was last in a line of 6 other riders on this ride. I know that doesn't shield me from deer (or bears!), but they would have seen the others first. Checking my Garmin data, I actually hit the brakes twice to keep it under 55.

    I'm riding in Ohio right now. Lot's of deer here too.

  21. #21
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    And if you want a climb, I've got one for you. Godfrey Ridge Rd. across the river in PA. A little over 2 mi. and 10000 ft. of climbing. LONG sections over 10%, but nothing super steep. The Sixer's basketball camp is on the right, going up hill. We got there via Cherry Valley Rd.[/QUOTE]

    AKA Rt. 191 from Stroudsburg toward Bangor. I know it's the same hill on account of seeing the Sixers camp sign. Yes, it is quite the ascent, though I believe it is only 1000 or so (not 10000!). You are summiting Blue Mountain. Of the half dozen or so points I've crossed the Blue, it is definitely the most challenging though Hawk Mtn is a bit steeper in spots. I actually came across this climb by semi-accident. It's a good thing the road is in good shape...cause it seems to never end.

  22. #22
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    10K - wow! That would be a climb! Maybe that volcano in Hawaii? Sorry...

    The road is quite smooth with a fairly wide berm. I did manage to pick up a stick into my front brake just past the Sixer's camp. Good thing I was going uphill. It came close to totally jamming the wheel. First time I've done that on a road bike. I'll have to try Hawk Mtn. next time we're up there.

    Last weekend we did Sanitorium Rd. near Glen Gardner in NJ and a bunch of other modest climbs through the Califon area. A great area to ride.

  23. #23
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    Our ride included Pinchers Point Rd. up from Rigelsville today. That's a pretty tough hill. I got a 17.9% data point on my Garmin. The extended stretch of 13%+ was a joy... I run a 39/27 and needed to stand for most of the steeper stuff. We skipped Bloomsbury Hill, but did Rt. 173 to Tunnel Rd., a nice extended climb. Too bad I was cooked from all the riding I did over the last few days. A beautiful day to be out on the bike.

  24. #24
    Let's sprint.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2shifter
    And if you want a climb, I've got one for you. Godfrey Ridge Rd. across the river in PA. A little over 2 mi. and 10000 ft. of climbing. LONG sections over 10%, but nothing super steep. The Sixer's basketball camp is on the right, going up hill. We got there via Cherry Valley Rd.
    AKA Rt. 191 from Stroudsburg toward Bangor. I know it's the same hill on account of seeing the Sixers camp sign. Yes, it is quite the ascent, though I believe it is only 1000 or so (not 10000!). You are summiting Blue Mountain. Of the half dozen or so points I've crossed the Blue, it is definitely the most challenging though Hawk Mtn is a bit steeper in spots. I actually came across this climb by semi-accident. It's a good thing the road is in good shape...cause it seems to never end.[/QUOTE]


    That climb, to us locals, is affectionately called "Bangor Mountain". We had a Garmin verified 2.8 miles @ 11.9% going up that badboy...our local group ride used to cover that twice over the course of our 55 mile ride, man its rough.

    If you want a (arguably) better climb, try climbing up the backside of Bangor Mountain coming from Bangor into Stroudsburg. It's one of the longer climbs in eastern PA @ 4.5 miles, and is never super steep until the very end. One of my fave climbs in the area

    Coming from Del Water Gap down Old Mine Road, when you get to that three way intersection and make a left towards Walpack...you descend that climb down to the creek, man that is BRUTAL. From there down into Milford along Old Mine Road is my favorite 70 mile loop from Stroudsburg
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    Quote Originally Posted by levels1069
    Rt 191 from Stroudsburg toward Bangor PA . . . That climb, to us locals, is affectionately called "Bangor Mountain". We had a Garmin verified 2.8 miles @ 11.9% going up that badboy
    GPS is real easy to use, but keep in mind that the whole GPS satellite system is designed to measure location not altitude. So when you use a GPS to try to measure the steepness of hill, you're using suspect data for one of the critical components of the calculation.
    Unless you've got an expensive GPS which includes a "barometric" altimeter.
    By my calculation climbing a steepness grade of 11.9% for 2.8 miles would put you up at an altitude over 1750 feet. But the Blue Mountain ridge around there is only 1500 feet.

    Measuring steep curvy roads is tricky no matter how you do it, so I'm glad to see people posting data from more different angles. But using a (non-barometric) GPS does not count as having "verified" the slope measurement -- it's just another potentially flawed attempt. It's another estimate worth knowing about, but it doesn't settle the question.
    Quote Originally Posted by Terex
    Our ride included Pinchers Point Rd. up from Rigelsville today. That's a pretty tough hill. I got a 17.9% data point on my Garmin.
    I think GPS data is especially suspect for measuring the slope of a short section of a climb. The satellite data just isn't designed for that. But if the GPS unit specifically says that it has a barometric altimeter, then that can be used (with some calibration) to measure altitude differences (and steepness grade) more reliably and accurately. without relying on the satellites.

    Ken

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